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Introduction to Nasus
Nasus is one of League of Legend's original heroes, and while not as a flashy or impressive as some of the newer ones, is an extremely solid addition to most teams and a surprisingly powerful hero. Though for a long time, many people tried to make him fill a melee DPS role, Nasus is strongest as a tank or a hybrid of the two. Though he lacks the initation ability of many true tanks, Nasus is devastating in team fights.
Some of Nasus' descriptors are pusher, tank and tough, which all describe him remarkably well. Nasus isn't as tough as Alistar or Shen, but he is able to do more damage than many tanks, especially because of his ability to farm, and his ultimate, Fury of the Sands, which can completely turn the tides of a team battle.
Nasus is best built as a tank or hybrid tank, but there is a great deal of possible variance depending on your opponents and your preferences. Sheen, Aegis of the Legion and Sunfire Capes are all excellent choices and key to many Nasus builds. Nasus can be difficult to play well, making him frustrating for beginners, but when mastered, can be among the best team champions.
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Mastery choices are fairly important for Nasus because benefits from all three of the mastery trees, being a mana based tank like Kayle or Singed, and because which masteries you choose will often define how you play him. The utility and defensive trees are equally useful to Nasus, depending on what runes you have and how you intend to play him, but Nasus is a mana hog through most of the game, making putting at least nine points into utility a very good idea. The rest of the utility tree provides more regen, movement speed and cooldown reduction, which are all excellent on Nasus, so you can feel comfortable putting points there.
The defensive tree provides more generic tank benefits, which are good in general, and especially if you already have mana regen from runes. The extra hitpoints make Nasus a powerhouse early on, because his starting HP is already fairly high, and the Nimbleness buff from dodging helps Nasus escape and close. Picking up the Cleanse mastery is very helpful, since disables are very dangerous to Nasus.
Nasus can be strong in melee, but it's probably not worth it to spend more than nine points in the offensive tree. The crit chance and attack speed masteries will help, but you will get more use out of survivability from the defense tree or mana regen and CDR in the utility tree.
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As mentioned before, Nasus is a mana hog, so building a mana regen page is an excellent idea. This allows more freedom in Nasus' build, but he will start with weaker tank stats. It is never a bad idea, however, because even with a Meiki Pendant, Nasus can still have mana problems in the early game when he needs all he can for Spirit Fire and Wither. Like with other tanks, HP Quintessences are an excellent choice if you can afford them. Choosing runes is often a matter of preference: check our Rune Guide for more ideas.
Marks: Armor Pen is fantastic on Nasus and works well with Spirit Fire, making Runes of Desolation an excellent choice. Marks of Vitality are also a strong choice for the more defense minded.
Seals: Greater Seals of Replenishment are a very strong choice for Nasus, allowing him to get health and HP/5 instead of MP/5 on his first item. Depending on how aggressively you lane and cast, these may be essential. Otherwise, Seals of Evasion are an excellent choice, especially when paired with Nimbleness.
Glyphs: Greater Glyphs of Celerity are always a strong choice, especially since Nasus' ultimate is on such a long cooldown. Any defensive glyph is a good choice as well, if you prefer a more direct defense.
Quintessences: Health, dodge or move speed are the best choices for Nasus in these slots.
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Nasus benefits from the same summoner spells that true tanks do, but with a little bit more flexibility. It is safe to avoid Exhaust and Ignite - Wither is almost as good of a slow as Exhaust and on a lower cooldown, and Ignite synergizes poorly with Nasus' play style. Flash is less useful than Ghost, since Nasus is unlikely to get the kill immediately or need to escape as rapidly as Flash allows. Ghost is a very strong choice: since most champions can't stand up to Nasus when he is using Fury of the Sands, it allows him to chase down and destroy weak opponents.
In the same vein, Cleanse is almost essential. Though very powerful, Nasus can still be disabled in Fury of the Sands, so you need a defense. With Cleanse, you can shrug off the stuns and slows they've been saving for you and continue destroying their team. It's also very useful for escaping and chasing, things Nasus does well already. Make sure this is one of your summoner spells.
Rally is also strong on Nasus, since he has the ability to force fights with Wither and is a great pusher already. With this, taking down towers is almost trivial.
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Final Thoughts on the Pre-Game
Nasus is extremely powerful in a lane, solo or otherwise, and you want to squeeze as much XP and gold out of those first few levels as you can, so optimize your runes and masteries so that they fit your play style. Whether it is to avoid running out of mana or to be able to stand up to harassment better, what you choose before the game begins can make or break Nasus in the long run.